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Interlude 2: Through a Glass Darkly
...it was an old night. It was not the simple absence of day, patrolled by the moon and the stars, but an extension of something that had existed long before there was any light to define it by absence. – Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies
Many strange superstitions existed about mirrors. Some of them were entertaining because of how wrong they were. Some were so old that only the faintest memories of them remained. Some were well-known and widely-believed, even by people who considered themselves too intelligent for such primitive things as superstitions.
None of them came anywhere near the truth.
It was the first thing learnt by every aspiring magician, witch, or sorcerer – for there were distinctions between those words, and contrary to what the average person thought they did not all mean the same thing. However, the things they learnt and studied were largely the same. Mirror magic was one of the most important thing for all of them to know about.
It was really very simple. Mirrors were pathways. A whole maze of roads leading all over the world and into many other worlds. Someone could step through a mirror in Hong Kong and walk out of one in Peru – if they were lucky.
Only the most experienced magic users ever dared venture on those pathways.
The chance of getting lost was serious enough. A moment of inattention, the slightest lapse of concentration, and you could end up on a completely different planet or in another world entirely. No one who stayed long in those other worlds ever came back the same. Most of them never came back at all.
Some said the pathways led to the Underworld. Some insisted they led to Fairyland. A few fools tried to find the truth. They didn't realise until too late that there was no such thing as truth beyond the mirrors.
The trouble with travelling through the mirrors was that once you used a mirror as a pathway, you could never turn it back into an ordinary mirror. It would always be a door waiting to be opened.
And doors worked both ways.
Few people currently on the planet had travelled as far and as often through the mirrors as Thomas had. He knew perfectly well how dangerous it was. He simply didn't care, with the indifference born of knowing he could hardly meet anything more dangerous than he himself was.
An unfortunate side-effect of all this mirror travel was that he might as well have posted a flashing neon sign above every mirror in his house. All the denizens of the pathways came crawling to see what was happening. There were hundreds of them lurking behind each mirror. All waiting for the minute he was careless enough to let his guard down.
He had ordered his new employees never to touch the sheets over the mirrors. Obviously he hadn't been clear enough.
"I told you never to touch the mirrors," he snapped. The cut on his arm continued to bleed sluggishly, soaking his shirt and waistcoat. Drops of blood splattered on the floor. "Have you any idea how dangerous they are?"
Both his employees stared at him with horror written all over their faces. Well, he couldn't see Adam's face, but he could guess what he was thinking.
Miss Frankenstein stared at the bright red stain on his shirt. She opened and closed her mouth like a goldfish.
"What just happened?" Adam asked.
Damn it. Now he'd have to explain the whole sorry business to them.